Monday, August 02, 2010

I want to speak up but I do not (dare to) do so...?

For those of you all who read the Straits Times (ST), you would have noticed that on the front page of today's ST is a report about the results of a recent survey conducted by the Institute of Policy Studies (IPS).

Specifically, the ST report highlighted how there is an increased proportion of respondents who "want to have a greater say and be more politically involved in the political process and policymaking".

This, in itself, is perhaps not all that surprising. However, as the ST report also pointed out, although there appears to be an increased demand for political participation and consultation, "when it came to actually making their views on public policy issues known to the Government, just 8 per cent actually did so".

To explain this apparent mismatch, the ST interviewed Associate Professor Tan Ern Ser from NUS and Mr. Eugene Tan from SMU.

According to Associate Professor Tan, the mismatch can perhaps be explained by how 68% of those respondents who do not actively participate in civic/political activities said it was because they do not have strong views.

Mr. Tan from SMU opined that this mismatch is indicative of how, besides voting, people have "limited faith in the effectiveness of the other channels of engagment" with the State. (Note: the IPS survey found that 85% of respondents strongly agreed with the statement "Voting gives citizens the most meaningful way to tell the government how the country should be run")

[Yet, curiously enough, in the IPS survey, voting is not included as one of the main channels of political participation]

However, while not discounting the validity of the above explanations, I am of the opinion that there is perhaps another possible reason why although there is a strong demand for political participation and consultation, there is, in contrast, a low rate of actual political participation or expression.

Simply put, it is my opinion that although people may desire to express themselves politically or participate in politics, there perhaps remains a subtle concern by many that they may get into trouble with the authorities if they express themselves politically, especially if they are espousing political views which are opposed to those held by those in power. This concern, if it indeed still exist, will evidently hinder people from expressing themselves politically or participating in politics. Indeed, the notion that there exist a "climate of fear" or "self-censorship syndrome" in Singapore is one which has often been referred to by several political observers in the past; thus, it is most curious that this was not picked up in IPS survey or mentioned by those interviewed in the ST report.

But then again, in light of the increase in petitions being spread around for signing and the numbers of people who are turning up for events at the Speakers' Corner, this concern, if not fear, about getting into trouble with the authorities for expressing the "wrong" political views has perhaps withered away or is hopefully slowly withering away.

That aside, returning to how voting is perceived by many Singaporeans as one of the most, if not the most, effective way of political participation or expression, I cannot help but think about how to square this with the fact that many Singaporeans often do not get the chance to vote during elections because of walkovers in their constituencies. But that, I suppose, is a question beyond the scope of this post and is best left to better minds than mine to ponder on.


Looking through the slides on the survey results released by IPS, I find it interesting that when it comes to the scores for Citizen-Nation Psychological Ties (i.e. national loyalty) and the National Identity Index, the Chinese, as an ethnic group, scored the lowest amongst the four main ethnic categories. For both variables, the Malays, as an ethnic group, scored higher than the Chinese, albeit only slightly.

Also, when it comes to "willingness to sacrifice", the Chinese again scored the lowest (41.74) while the Malays scored the highest (43.71).

Hmm, looking at the above, I cannot help but wonder if it is valid for MINDEF/SAF to be cautious about placing Malay-Muslims in sensitive appointments.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

MINDEF"s decision has never been backed by empirical evidence. It's solely due to LKY's experience during the 1960s racial riots.

Post a Comment